Why Miley Cyrus Matters

When it comes to human nature, some consider me wildly optimistic while others revile me as morbidly pessimistic. When it comes to people, I consider myself a realist: we are capable of great good; we are also capable of inestimable evil. Miley Cyrus continues to be demonized while Robin Thicke is beatified. When I posted this popular cartoon last week, "The Public Stoning of Miley Cyrus", the comments confirmed to me that sexism, misogyny and rape-culture is alive and well on planet earth. I repeatedly insisted that the drawing and article were not about Miley Cyrus' performance but about our reaction to it. The issues around her performance itself were not my focus. This is about us! So it was disappointing to receive so many comments bent on turning the light back on her. Another of my popular posts, "Why I Wouldn't Attend Pastor Steepek's Church" churned up most comments rabidly supporting the use of shame to motivate members of churches to do good. I naively assumed that when people realized that shame was the primary tool used by that pastor to get his church to do what he wanted them to do, they would reject it as not only inappropriate, but damaging. Nope! These further confirmed my suspicions of human nature:
  1. People are going to believe what they want to believe. No matter how convincing an argument is, it usually doesn't matter. The brain is the strongest fortress in the world and it cannot be taken from the outside. It has to be taken from the inside. We ourselves must change our own minds. Few of us do.
  2. Everything matters. When people lamented that the important news about Syria was overshadowed by unimportant Miley Cyrus, I saw it as a moment to learn that the way we treat one person is the way we treat every person. I believe our attitudes about Cyrus predict our attitudes about Syria and the world. Like my post about shame revealed, if we have weapons that will help us achieve something we perceive as good, we will use them. If we believe we can use it, I believe we will use it.
When Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls, we rightly interpreted this as an indicator of the Taliban's attitudes about its role in the world and its attitudes about us. How they treated this girl is how they would treat us. The same principal applies to ourselves. The way we treat Miley Cyrus is the way we would treat nations. If we feel we have the right to stamp out what we believe is evil in one young woman, we will feel we have the right to stamp out what we believe is evil half way around the globe. If we believe we have the right to think we are better than Cyrus because we don't do this or that, we will believe we are better than other nations or cultures or races because of what we believe are our superior differences. How we do one thing is how we do everything. How we love her is how we love them. My heart is the single source of all my actions. Our response to Cyrus and our response to Syria are two simultaneously presenting symptoms. But like any decent doctor would do, we should suspect these two symptoms are related and investigate to see if there exists one deeper malaise as their common cause. To consider the apparent shallowness of our culture as unrelated to the apparent importance of our politics lacks the necessary self-awareness that could save us, our world and our planet. Our culture is our politics! Miley Cyrus matters because everything matters.
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